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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 30 Mar 2002

Joint Declaration QUESTION from Larry Lottier November 7, 1999 Greetings in Christ...
Some of the people in our parish think/feel that the recent Joint Declaration by the Lutheran World federation and the Roman Catholic Church as demonstrated that the Church has and therefore can change its Doctrine. I have the multi-page document but it is difficult (and lengthy) for them to digest. Is there a summary analysis of what the Declaration means and that it did not in fact change Church Doctrine.
They are reading secular reports (New York Times, etc.) that give them the impression that the Church finally saw the error of its ways and changed.
Is there a reference I can give them other than the entire document?
Thanks and blessings, Deacon Larry
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius on November 10, 1999 Dear Deacon:
I have not had the time to read the document yet, but there are three things I do know (and ALL Catholics should know):
1) The infallible doctrine of the Church has not, will not, and cannot be changed. If the infallible doctrine of the Church can be officially changed then Jesus is a liar. Since Jesus is not a liar, the infallible doctrine of the Church cannot be changed.
The nature of infallible teaching is an article of faith. All Catholics, to be Catholic, must believe this.
2) The Catholic Church's call to ecuminism does not involve compromising faith and morals for the sake of unity, but involves bring unity by bringing others into an understanding of the faith. Ecumenism is about bringing down the walls of misunderstanding and seeking unity in faith through love, understanding and friendly persuasion. The Church will not compromise the faith for unity.
3) NEVER, NEVER, that is NEVER....did I remember to say NEVER? NEVER listen to the secular press about the decisions and activities of the Church. The secular press reports are biased, and even when they try not to be biased they do not understand the workings of the Church and thus still get it wrong. I cannot recall a single secular report that has ever been totally accurate when it comes to Church affiars.
Below is the Press Release from ZENIT. It provides a summary of sorts:
GENEVA, 11 JUN 1999 (ZENIT).
This morning, the dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans took a giant step forward. The Catholic Church and Lutheran World Federation (LWF) have reached a level of consensus on fundamental truths regarding the doctrine of justification, allowing for the removal of historic condemnations with which the two Christian confessions have mutually sanctioned one another.
During a press conference in Geneva, Cardinal Edward Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Rev. Ishmael Noko, secretary general of the LWF, presented a common statement of the Catholic Church and the LWF on this topic, clearing up lingering questions from last year's Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, which had not achieved final approval on the Catholic side.
The common statement will be signed on October 30-31 in Augsburg, Germany. This recalls the date on which Martin Luther traditionally nailed his 95 theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg in 1517, marking the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
The document includes an additional text, an Annex clarifying the Church's understanding of the terms and the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, prepared last year by the mixed commission for dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans.
In virtue of the new consensus, the LWF and the Catholic Church declare jointly, The teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnations of the Council of Trent. Simultaneously, it states, The condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church presented in this Declaration.
Nonetheless, there remains a need for a continued and deepened study of the Biblical foundations of the doctrine of justification, because this aspect did not seem to have been given sufficient attention in the Joint Declaration, Cardinal Cassidy stated.
In order to reach full communion between the two Churches on this matter, some aspects of the declaration would have to be clarified, as well as other topics which have yet to be studied on the matter. We do not claim agreement on all issues related to the doctrine of justification, Rev. Noko said. Nevertheless, we have reached consensus on the principal points.
Cardinal Cassidy explained that the common statement and its annex have been approved by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whose prefect is Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Late this May, John Paul II also approved the signing of the Declaration, to be carried out jointly with the LWF. ZE99061106
This article has been selected from the ZENIT Daily Dispatch © Innovative Media, Inc. ZENIT International News Agency Via della Stazione di Ottavia, 95 00165 Rome, Italy
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It sounds like to me that about all that was accomplished was to break down some mutual misunderstanding sufficient enough to dismiss the mutual condemnation of each other. Apparently more work is to be done to complete the process.
The full text of the document is at:
The Pontifical Commissions statement on this is at:
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